Train from New York

September 30, 2008

philly290.jpgWe flee from New York at a clickety blur at the end of the day. We have done so for an hour now and the sun is just setting across an industrial landscape that  is old brick buildings (a few soft with refurbishment, the rest hard in broken abandonment), vacant weedgrown lots, rail-tracks, water towers and broken glass. Have I mentioned derelict cars and graffiti? The last tint of gold catches the towers of Philadelphia in the far distance, grey on the horizon against a grey sky threatening rain. Read more


May 29, 2007

There are parts of Philly that are familiar (I have been in and out of here since 1997) and attractive – for all the reasons you would expect them to be. Here the Declaration of Independence was signed, Benjamin Franklin and his cronies hung out and where the nations capital was seated for a period of time. So there is the old brick, Roman colonnade sense of history to the place which I find appealing. Around about are smaller historical towns that convey that rustic historicity as well. Even the more modern skyline is distinctive and well balanced and sufficiently unique among skyscraper cities for it to stand out the moment you see it – including in the TV series Cold Case where this city sets the backdrop for those stories. And here are the famous boatsheds, the equally famous universities, Hymies deli (what sort of name is that?) Warmdaddys and the fractured bell.

But… There is also a grittier side of Philly that I also like. The city sits beside the Delaware River which is a major industrial artery which seethes with shipping. There is no sense here of any pleasure craft pursuits here – though I maybe wrong. Oil and other heavy industry line the banks of the river. Power stations. Steel fabrication. Skeletal bridges such as the Walt Whitman and the Benjamin Franklin. The amazing naval Reserve Basin with warships mothballed, including the USS America, and any number of hulls being ripped down. All this activity in the midst of a more refined banking and historical centre. I think the mix makes for a more lively city. A snapshot of the Delaware River as we clear Philly and turn towards Dallas.

21 May 2007